It is with great sadness that the B&O Trail Association announces the untimely passing of Diana Virgil, the “mother” of the B&O Trail in Hendricks County. Diana passed away peacefully on September 10th at the age of 79.
In 1992, when converting rails to trails was a novel concept in Indiana, Diana attended a meeting of trail enthusiasts. She immediately saw the potential for converting an abandoned CSX railroad corridor in Hendricks County into a means for improving the health and quality of life of Hendricks County residents. Her passion for the idea was contagious and inspired a group of people to join her in making this dream a reality. Diana started an all-volunteer trail group that eventually became the B&O Trail Association Inc. (BOTA) and Hendricks County Trail Development Association (HCTDA) as you know them today. Diana was a trailblazer and with more than $12 million in grants and donations through the years, she oversaw the purchase of about 95% of the former 20-mile B&O Railroad corridor in Hendricks County and construction of six miles of the B&O Trail along with the cooperation of Brownsburg Parks.
In 2010, the B&O Trail Association received federal stimulus funds to develop a one-mile section of the B&O Trail between Raceway Road and Ronald Reagan Parkway and a second section two miles long from Green Street (formerly SR 267) east to CR 300N. The Town provided a portion of the matching funds for the project. The federal stimulus financing came from the successful grant-writing skills of Storrow-Kinsella Associates, Diana, and her husband, Hall. Their efforts garnered the project more than $4 million in federal stimulus funds.
The most recent $4,583,050 award to BOTA from the 2nd Round of Governor Holcomb’s NEXTLevel Trails Grant Program is to extend the B&O Trail eastward into Marion County and westward in Hendricks County was the capstone of Diana’s generous life.
There’s no doubt that without the persistence and tenacity of Diana and Hall Virgil, the Town of Brownsburg would not be home to a portion of the B&O Trail,” said Town Council President Travis Tschaenn. “They spent countless hours meeting with local and state officials, writing grant applications, working with residents and literally clearing limbs, pulling out invasive plants and in other ways ensuring the upkeep of the B&O Trail. The Town of Brownsburg is greatly indebted to Diana for her labor of love to create the B&O Trail.”
The Town, Brownsburg Parks and the B&O Trail Association entered into an agreement that brought the three-mile portion of the trail from Green Street to Ronald Reagan Parkway into Brownsburg Parks’ inventory. These acquisitions helped Brownsburg Parks purchase adjacent property just east of the intersection of CR 900E and CR 300N, which will provide much-needed parking and restroom facilities for trail users. A small playground and bicycle repair station are planned at the more than six-and-a-half-acre site, which in 2019 was named Virgil Park by the Brownsburg Park Board.
“I’m grateful that we were able to honor Diana during her lifetime,” said Park Board President Judy Kenninger. “Her work has improved the lives of Brownsburg residents and will serve as the foundation for a completed trail that will stretch from downtown Indianapolis all the way to Montezuma, Indiana. I believe Brownsburg is on the cusp of a bright new future just as towns north of Indianapolis are seeing benefits from the construction of the Monon Trail.”
Turkey Run State Park was another one of Diana’s loves. Diana had a vision in 1992 of someday riding her bicycle from her home south of Brownsburg about 48 miles via the B&O Trail and US Route 41 to Turkey Run State Park to hike, canoe, and camp. Maybe the B&O Trail will be completed that far someday and extend on to Montezuma, Indiana along the Wabash River where an 800-foot long former B&O Railroad bridge was converted into a pedestrian trail bridge by Parke County.
Diana’s other interests included riding in the annual Hilly Hundred Bicycle Ride, being a member of the Central Indiana Bicycling Association (CIBA), member of 5th Church of Christ, Scientist in Indianapolis, income tax preparer, and friend to everybody. Over the years, Diana has greeted many trail users with her warm and enthusiastic smile.
Diana and husband Hall raised three wonderful children: son Dan Virgil of Elmhurst, Illinois; daughter Debby Toro of Chevy Chase, Maryland; and daughter Robin Matteson of Hillsboro, Oregon. Hall plans to continue his dedicated service to the trail to carry on Diana’s life work.
A Celebration of Life is being planned for Diana at a future date where her friends can come together to share their memories of Diana. In lieu of flowers or other loving recognition, her family has asked that trail supporters consider donating in Diana’s name to the B&O Trail Association to fulfill the NEXTLevel Trails matching grant requirement. We have created a special donation page just for this purpose:
Thank you to all of our followers for supporting and loving Diana and the B&O Trail for all of these years.